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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Interview Part 4: Mike Misuraca, Baseball Guy

Mike Misuraca has served as a scout for the Reds fore more than a decade. Photo is of the Reds' Great American Ballpark in 2010. (Greatest 21 Days)
Part 1: Phone Calls | Part 2: Unbelievable Feeling
Part 3: Got There | Part 4: Baseball Guy

Mike Misuraca's post-playing days started with an Italian food company. It was the company his father worked. It was also a living. But it wasn't Misuraca.

What Misuraca was involved baseball, the game he played for nearly a decade and the game he'd played at the highest level.

His old friend from the minors Rex De La Nuez, a scout with the Reds, told him as much as he invited Misuraca to check out a player with him.

"You're a baseball guy," Misuraca recalled De La Nuez telling him. "'You belong in the game' I started listening to him and he started convincing him. I said, 'you're right, I do.'"

It took Misuraca a little bit of time, but, soon enough, he was back in the game. The former major leaguer had a new career as a scout.

When he finally did get that scouting job, he knew that was exactly where he was supposed to be.

"This is where I belong," Misuraca said. "This is me. I'm a baseball guy."

Misuraca spoke with The Greatest 21 Days recently by phone from his home in Southern California. He covered his career from growing up learning the game to college and the pros.
Mike Misuraca serves as a scout for the Reds in Southern California. Photo is of Great American Ballpark in 2010. (Greatest 21 Days)
He then talked of his long trek to the majors and the overwhelming excitement that came when he finally made it and then the arthritis that forced him from the game and eventually sent him on to his scouting career with the Reds.

Misuraca's major league career began and ended in 1997, his ninth season as a pro. He got into five games for the Brewers, returned to the minors and didn't get into another big league game.

By the next spring, he knew his career was over. He'd kept a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis secret since 1996. But there was no more hiding it by spring 1998. Coaches tend to notice when a pitcher can't move an arm. He couldn't move his non-throwing shoulder.

He knew he was done.

"In my mind, I could still compete, but my body, my body was so overly riddled with pain I wasn't really overly disappointed. I was at a point where, you know what, I really didn't feel like playing anymore. I literally hurt so much every day."

Misuraca had one surgery during his career on his shoulder. He's since had 14 more, for a total of eight on his left shoulder and seven on his right.

When his career ended on those terms, though, Misuraca just wanted to get away from the game. He wanted to still play, but he couldn't. Out of sight, out of mind, he said.

Not sure what he would do, his father stepped up. His dad Carmen worked at the Italian foods company. He believed he could get Misuraca a job there, too.
Fireworks at Great American Ballpark in 2010. (Greatest 21 Days)

Misuraca could always count on his father. He was Misuraca's biggest supporter.

"When I was an undersized kid," Misuraca recalled, "he would always say to anybody who would listen, 'that kid's going to play in the big leagues one day' and people would laugh."

Misuraca's father passed away in 2006.

"I'm very proud of what I accomplished and I know my father was," Misuraca said, "and that's the most important thing to me. My dad was - I'm so happy my dad got to see that before he passed, that I did get to see the big leagues."

With his dad's support, the former major leaguer went into the food business. After a couple years, though, he found his way back to baseball.

Invited by De La Nuez to check out that player, Misuraca accepted. He also showed up in his salesman attire, a suit and tie. Misuraca recalled De La Nuez admonishing him. That wasn't the attire of a scout. They were going to watch a baseball game.

Misuraca then set out to be a scout. He thought it'd be easier than it was. It wasn't. Scouting jobs are hard to get. He got a couple interviews and thought he did well. He realized later they were basically courtesy interviews.

He was getting discouraged. De La Nuez invited Misuraca to a professional scouts foundation dinner. Maybe he could do some networking. He learned the Reds had an opening. De La Nuez put in a good word.
Mike Misuraca and his wife Lisa at a 2015 Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation event. Misuraca is married with two children. (Photo Provided)
Misuraca got another interview and he again thought he did well. It came down to him and another guy. The other guy got the job. "It was a kick to the gut," Misuraca said.

By that point, he wasn't working at the food company anymore. Scared and nervous, he wasn't sure what he was going to do. He called the scouting director back. And Misuraca thanked him for considering him. Misuraca was assured he was still on their radar.

The next day, he was on his way to find himself another job when the scouting directer called. They had a scouting job for Misuraca, it was just on the East Coast. Misuraca asked if he could have time to think about it.

He recalled thinking about it for about five seconds. Misuraca was a scout.

"They gave me a radar gun, a clipboard and said we've got some guys, here's a list, go get 'em," Misuraca recalled. "I kind of had to learn on te fly, which was great."

He covered Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. He had that for about six months, then the original Southern California territory he wanted came open again. The guy chosen over him didn't work out. He's covered that area now for more than a decade.

Misuraca said he relies on his experience as a former player and his instincts. Where can he see a guy? If he's not a fast runner, does he make up for it in other areas?
Reds scout Mike Misuraca at work signing player Kevin Franklin. (Greatest 21 Days)
"You're looking for intangibles," Misuraca said. "After the five-tools, you've got to look for hte intangibles. I'm looking for guys that have heart. They obviously have to have talent, but that's easy to spot. Sometimes you have to look a little bit further."

Along the way, Misuraca has signed several players. Success, he said, isn't necessarily measured on whether players make the majors or not. Some guys cane be $1,000 signs, make AAA and help other guys improve. "I'm proud of those guys, too," Misuraca said.

Other guys show success by making the majors. Misuraca signed Justin Turner, now with the Dodgers. The Reds took Turner in the seventh round of the 2006 draft out of Cal State Fullerton. Misuraca made it happen.

"When guys would go watch him, he came up a little bit short on some tools," Misuraca said, "but a classic example of intangibles. This where I had to say hey, i really like this guy. I had to fight for him."

With more than a dozen years as a scout under his belt, Misuraca said he's still learning. He's still trying to better himself.

"I'm still trying to become a really great scout and help my team in any way I can to win a championship," he said. "That's the ultimate goal, is the World Series."

"I'm learning every day," Misuraca said. "It's great, because it's baseball."

Part 1: Phone Calls | Part 2: Unbelievable Feeling
Part 3: Got There | Part 4: Baseball Guy

Be sure and check out Part 1: Mike Misuraca, Phone Calls

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